18 Mar 2011

Campaign Finance Reform Caused Rise of Koch Brothers and George Soros

This may sounds counter-intuitive, but the landmark McCain-Feingold campaign finance reforms are actually the direct cause of the rise of the super wealthy as even bigger players in politics than they have always been. It banned huge amounts of money from being donated directly to political parties, but that resulted in even more money going to less regulated outside groups instead.

I wrote about this in my latest piece at WNYC’s It’s a Free Country:

Although some of those rules have since been overturned, the ban on soft money is still in place, and the power of political parties has waned. But the monied interests didn’t just pack up and go home after they were barred from as direct a control over the political process, as huge soft money donations allowed them. They just found other avenues to exert influence with their money.

It is no coincidence that we’ve seen the power of political action committees (PACs) and 501(c)4 nonprofits – so called ‘Super PACs’, as they don’t have donation limits – since the soft money ban was put in place.

But this is how the march towards reform goes. You find one avenue of corruption and undue political influence, you come up with a way to mitigate or block it, and you wait for special interests to adapt to the new situation. When they do, you look for ways to mitigate those, and push for them.

Take a few steps forwards, and (hopefully) less steps backwards. This is how progress works.

I mention a couple of the ideas people have been floating on how we might begin to fix these problem, among other things. Check it out:

Read on at It’s a Free Country >>

Author Details
After a few years of blogging on other sites, Solomon launched ‘Rise of the Center’ – the precursor to Uniters.org, leading to a number of interviews and freelance opportunities, most notably covering the 2012 election cycle on WNYC.org – the website for the largest NPR station in the country, in New York City – and reported from the floor of the 2012 Democratic & Republican National Conventions. After a hiatus from politics, the horrific circus of the 2016 election, and more generally increasing extremism and corruption, brought him back to this project.
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After a few years of blogging on other sites, Solomon launched ‘Rise of the Center’ – the precursor to Uniters.org, leading to a number of interviews and freelance opportunities, most notably covering the 2012 election cycle on WNYC.org – the website for the largest NPR station in the country, in New York City – and reported from the floor of the 2012 Democratic & Republican National Conventions. After a hiatus from politics, the horrific circus of the 2016 election, and more generally increasing extremism and corruption, brought him back to this project.
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One thought on “Campaign Finance Reform Caused Rise of Koch Brothers and George Soros”

  1. IMHO, the power of special interest money in politics is one of the top three reasons for the failure of our political institutions, including the two parties. They are co-opted by the cash.

    The question is whether there is any way to really get at the problem. Any comprehensive reform with real bite will be quietly but ruthlessly killed in Congress. Special interests and their lobbyists will not tolerate any attempts to change their capacity to corrupt the political process.

    That makes it a waste of time to even think about a Constitutional amendment to require public financing of most or all campaigns. I like the idea of having Congress pass law that says legal entities like corporations and non-profits do not have a right to protected political speech.

    Of course, that would never get past the lobbyists either. But if it did, the ensuing test of the law in in Supreme Court would be extremely interesting. The arguments the special interests would have to use to justify their belief that the U.S. Constitution protects free speech rights of legal entities would be fascinating. That would be the spectacle of seeing often hard core conservative business interests arguing for the hated “judicial activism” they would want. The Constitution does not say that 1st amendment free speech applies to legal entities, so seeing “strict constructionist” conservatives argue for that point would be an exercise in political hypocrisy – fascinating and depressing at the same time.

    BTW, what are the best two or three ideas for trying to get at the issue of special interest money in politics? I really can’t think of any way to get past the power of bought-off politicians and lobbyists backed by money. Just curious.

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